Formal Education May Devalue Alternate Ways of Knowing

I was looking at Davis-Floyd & Sargent’s Childbirth & Authoritative Knowledge: Cross-Cultural Perspectives at Amazon (through GoodSearch) and lookie what I saw in the excerpt:

“The devaluation of nonauthoritative knowledge systems is a general mechanism by which hierarchical knowledge structures are generated and displayed.  Regarding its role in education, the French anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu comments on the role that formal education may plan in the devaluation of folk knowledge in a class-structured society.  He says,

‘[Formal schooling] succeeds in obtaining from the dominated classes a recognition of legitimate knowledge and know-how (e.g. in law, medicine, technology, entertainment, or art), entailing the devaluation of the knowledge and know-how they effectively command (e.g. customary law, home medicine, craft techniques, folk art and language, and all the lore handed on in the hedge-school of the witch and shepherd . . . ) and so providing a market for material and especially symbolic products of which the means of production are virtually monopolized by the dominant classes (e.g. clinical diagnosis, legal advice, the culture industry, etc.).  (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977:42)”[1]

So, let me see if I can – off the top of my head – make this selection relevant and interesting  . . .

We start with “equally legitimate parallel knowledge systems” [2] (like midwifery, family practice care, naturopathy, etc.) in health care, but then one type of knowledge becomes more politically powerful (medicalized health care for pregnant women).  Education tends to legitimize and put forth TECHNOLOGY which also, in my opinion, exacerbates the issue of power (both from gendered and Marxist perspectives) in pregnancy and childbirth.  Those who are highly educated (it seems from the above quote) are actually DOMINATED by this legitimized supreme knowledge and know-how.  Those who reject this domination are cast aside as witches, bitches, nags, etc.

Whoa!  Can’t wait to read this book – totally in the same sociological models I studied with regard to music and music education (another marginalized way of *knowing*).  I was just discussing this book with a fellow ICANer, and she says it goes hand in hand with “unschooling”.  I’m sure it does, L!  =)


[1] & [2] Robbie E. Davis-Floyd & Carolyn F. Sargent, Childbirth and Authoritative Knowledge: Cross-Cultural Perspectives  (Berkeley and Los Angeles: UC Press, 1997), on-line excerpt. 


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